We were pleased to see some of the cuts from 2011 reversed. We thank leaders from both parties who worked to roll back those cuts when the extra money from HMOs became available.
These are not permanent victories, however. The wage cuts to personal care attendants were only delayed until July 1, 2013. The 1.67% cut to disability service providers was delayed as well. The 10% cut to community services for 2,600 Minnesotans with disabilities was only reduced to 5%. Disability advocates will need to fight again next session to make these reversals permanent.
Other recurring struggles for self-advocates and families need to be revisited. Parental fees are still too high for too many families. There are still thousands of Minnesotans on the waiting list for waivered services. Parents of children with autism have been particularly vocal about the lack of services and options for their loved ones. The desperation they feel is very real and their concerns must be addressed.
Part of the solution to these problems is adding more state revenues. Advocates must also press for reforms in disability supports so we not only create better lives but get a better value for our public dollars. The Arc Minnesota, its local affiliated chapters, and the Minnesota Department of Human Services are already charting a path toward reform through Housing Access Services. This statewide effort has moved more than 420 people with disabilities who are ready to live in a home of their own, and it saves between $10,000 and $35,000 a year for each person who moves from traditional residential services.
Advocates also must urge the State of Minnesota to increase the control that parents and self-advocates can have over funding and staffing. For example, if the State of Minnesota is able to implement the Community First Choice Option, individuals and families can control and use state dollars for personal care services more effectively and efficiently. In addition, advocates also need to push for cost-effective innovations in Medical Assistance funding, so people on the waiting list don’t have to rely solely on waivered services as their best shot to live in the community. Taking advantage of increased federal dollars to help move people from institutions, such as the Money Follows the Person initiative, will also help.
A big disappointment this session was passage of the Voter ID amendment. Disability advocates should oppose this proposal, join the Our Vote Our Future coalition in opposing it, and encourage their friends and families to vote against it in November. We don’t want to see barriers placed in front of people with disabilities when they go to the polls in future elections.
The Arc Minnesota has a fact sheet to help educate the public about the problems with Voter ID.
Steve Larson is senior public policy director for The Arc Minnesota.